School is mostly about students listening and teachers talking. In order to fill any missing gaps before moving on to the next lesson, we might need to pay closer attention to the student-teacher relationship beyond the classroom walls.
When the bell rings, any communication flow that does exist between tutors and tutees gets interrupted, making education one of the most fragmented processes we undergo as we develop into adults. In recent years, this problem has become easy to address. Yet academic reps are playing hard-to-get.
Of the societies that refuse to open their eyes to the benefits of cloud communication (hosted PBX), the education sector is inexplicably unshakeable. Academic establishments are based on traditional processes that apparently favor the administrators’ obstinacy over the student’s flexibility. And teachers are caught right in the middle.
A communication vehicle
In the years we’ve spent building and deploying communication and collaboration software, we’ve inadvertently witnessed a pattern in the way these tools are used across various industries and organizations. Unified Communications (UC) has become synonymous with moving communication. It has the power to iron out any miscommunication in the fastest time possible. In education, it’s just as applicable as anywhere else.
Let’s take the higher-ed as example. Most universities cater to tens of thousands of students, but its reps are on the fence regarding an upgrade of their communication channels to enable a higher level of engagement between them and the minds they shape. Many students do not live on-campus, which further creates a need for increased reachability.
Students everywhere have shown a willingness to be reached by voicemail email, get school announcements on a channel separate to their cell, get outside tips or notifications without having to give out their personal number, as well as have a centralized communication medium to exchange learning material, work on assignments, consult their tutors etc.
We’ve found that some of the most prestigious universities had few registered users with their on-premises branch exchange, mostly with the purpose of serving faculty matters. Many of the polled students, and even some of the professors, said they were willing to adopt next-generation communication tools to enrich their teacher-to-student experience off- and on-campus. Administrators? Not so much.
The voice of a new generation
Universities are early adopters for lots of things, many invented in their very own labs. The administrative side on the other hand isn’t always at the top of its game. This reluctance is not without a reason. Age (and age-afflicted mentality) is one of the primary factors preventing specialized communication tools from penetrating academics. While the young demographic is generally more open to the idea of trying new tech and being always-on, the elder ranks seem to be afraid to deviate from their legacy systems. We know this not by research, but through our grandparents. There are other potential blockades as well, such as existing partnerships with local vendors, recent acquisitions of school supplies and services etc.
On the bright side, now more than ever students are actually the ones exercising the most pressure to move things forward. They may not have much buying power but they dictate usability and coolness. Who can say no to this duo? Much like business owners need to listen to their staffers’ needs when deploying new equipment, school reps need to keep their eyes and ears peeled when it comes to the demands of a new generation of students.
“They’re not doing it, so why should we?”
Whether or not service providers are doing what it takes to create awareness about modern communication solutions, there’s also this ill-fated misconception that sitting put eliminates the risk factor. In reality, this ultimately impedes evolution. So how do you – a service provider – get academic reps to listen? Simple.
First off, you need to show them some real benefits on their end. Things like:
- More engaged students -> better grades -> a better image for the university
- Conferencing for tackling non-local issues -> the ability to exchange knowledge with universities overseas without booking a flight
- IVR (Interactive Voice Response) functionality -> dynamically generated audio/prerecorded messages that direct users on how to proceed and reach the desired academic department
- Email2fax and fax2email to forward papers -> when recipients cling onto technology from the bronze age, you want a full arsenal ready to go at all times
- Intercom -> good in case of an emergency (fire, bomb threat etc.)
- Better communication between teachers and parents
- Improved collaboration and communication in-house (i.e. between professors)
- Systems integration and automatic provisioning -> quick and low-cost implementation and blazing fast onboarding of new users
Secondly, get at least one school aboard and advertise the hell out of it. It won’t make you rich overnight, but the idea will be implanted! Soon enough, others will follow as well.
Third, make good on your promise. Offer your full support to your new clients and build a reputation in the education sector.
To put the wheels in motion, service providers need to call academic reps to action. Because without any outside pressure, this business opportunity remains just that: a sitting opportunity.